“To prove that we could do it.” That’s why two Toronto-area students, Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad, decided to build a weather balloon with a video camera and send it into space. The students launched their weather balloon two weeks ago from a Newmarket soccer field, and waited as their little Lego man bearing a Canada flag, three cameras and a phone for GPS tracking soared into the skies. The balloon reached an estimated 24 km (15 miles) above sea level — three times the height of Mount Everest, as well as three times the height that most commercial airlines fly — before it burst and their lego man and camera contraptions fell back to earth.
The teens met in middle school. Muhammad was new in town and spoke no English. Ho reached out to the newcomer, and they became friends. When Ho dreamed up the project, he knew Muhammad, with a passion for all things flight-related, would be the perfect partner.
The teens planned the project meticulously. They assembled a parachute using mom’s sewing machine. They assembled a styrofoam box to hold the cameras and equipment. They scoured Kijiji for used cameras they could get on the cheap that could be preprogrammed to take a photograph every 20 seconds. They left the weather balloon to the professionals, ordering a premade one online.
They spent months of Saturdays working on the project, testing the parachute by dropping it off the roof of the condo one of the boys lived in, and checking the wind patterns so that they would have a fighting chance of retrieving the camera in a favorable location. One Saturday two weeks ago, the conditions looked perfect, and they set their project up and let it fly into space. They retrieved their camera from its landing point 122 km away the following weekend, and uploaded the images. The rest speaks for itself.
Well done, lads. Well done.
Photo Credit: Screen grab from Video